04 November, 2011

BA may buy BMI

Lufthansa has said it is selling British Midland (BMI) to International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns British Airways and Iberia. No details have yet been given of how much will be paid for the loss-making carrier. The airlines said they hoped to sign a purchase agreement "in the coming weeks" and complete the deal before April 2012. 

The sale still has to be cleared by regulators. BMI, which is based in Castle Donington in Leicestershire, operates flights to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The key issue for regulators will be the extra take-off and landing slots at Heathrow Airport that BMI owns. 

 The acquisition would mean that IAG would have more than half of the landing slots at the UK's busiest airport. Virgin Atlantic, which said it had also made a bid for BMI, is likely to strongly oppose the deal. "British Airways' hold over Heathrow is already too dominant and we are very concerned - as the competition authorities should also be - that BA's purchase of BMI would be disastrous for consumer choice and competition," Virgin Atlantic said. Lufthansa bought the 50% of BMI owned by its then chairman Sir Michael Bishop in 2008, taking its holding to 80%.